The three-man backline could be happening again this Sunday. And as far as Dejan Lovren is concerned Liverpool have the perfect group of center backs to play in that system. The Croatian defender believes a combination of himself, Joël Matip and Ragnar Klavan sitting in front of Simon Mignolet is an ideal defensive coalition to call upon at West Brom if Jürgen Klopp decides to repeat the trick that payed off against Stoke City last weekend.
“Stoke is a similar team to West Brom with long balls,” said Lovren, “and we played the system quite well in the second half.”
Any time a player or manager describes an opponent as a long-ball team I assume they are throwing shade. Because collectively we don’t see much intrinsic worth in the long-ball game. It has it’s uses for some teams. And it has it’s hooks in some managers. But it’s the equivalent of repeatedly fast-balling a basketball at a backboard and then celebrating your efforts when thirty minutes later the ball drops into the net. It’s boring.
But if West Brom and the Tony Pulis eleven are going to insist on the long-ball game—and they will—Lovren is confident that Liverpool’s three senior center backs can nullify the threat of the blunt force with a three-man backline.
“I think it’s a perfect mix for us,” Dejan said. “Matip in the middle. Me on the right because I’m right-footed and Raggy on the left because he’s left-footed. It’s quite a good mix.”
Of course, a system doesn’t magically become perfect by naming your teammates and their dominate feet. Training must happen and Liverpool’s defensive line will require time to really become experts in a new system.
“Everyone knows it’s a totally different system than when you have four at the back,” said Lovren. “Sometimes when you have three it can be better, because when you’re attacking you have three guys defending.
“But if you don’t understand well the situations, I think you also need to have the time to train on the pitch.
“But like I said, everyone knows what we need to do and I think we’re ready for everything.”
That’s good because the pressure is well and truly on right now. And will continue to be on until the end of the season. There are nothing but must-wins as far as the eye can see. Six more games with six different systems to shut down and best. Next up at West Brom: stop the basketball.